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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Action / Flight Sim

 

Publisher

LucasArts

 

Developer

Totally Games

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2003

 

 

- A great variety of missions, planes, and locations
- After some acclimation, flying controls easy to handle on a console controller
- Including German, Japanese, and Russian voice-acting add to the realism

 

 

- Can take a full-fledged bathroom break while flying to reach some mission targets
- Easy to get your plane disoriented while seeking out enemy planes in a dogfight
- Allows you to survive mid-air crashes with other aircraft

 

 

Review: Crimson Skies - High Road to Revenge (XB)

Review: Secret Weapons Over Normandy (PC)

Review: Secret Weapons Over Normandy (PS2)

Interview: Secret Weapons Over Normandy Q&A

 

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Secret Weapons Over Normandy

Score: 8.4 / 10

 

secret weapons over normandy          secret weapons over normandy

 

Lawrence Holland is the highly praised creator of the Star Wars flying games X-Wing and Tie Fighter, in addition to the World War II-based Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe (SWOL). Holland again uses his creative genius to devise another great-playing flight title to add to both his and LucasArts’ game hangar with the release of Secret Weapons over Normandy (SWON), the follow-up to SWOL.

The campaign mode of SWON has you, pilot James Chase, joining the ranks of a secret military flying squadron fighting the evil empire of Adolph Hitler and his Third Reich Nazi war machine and the Japanese in the Pacific during World War II. You can pilot over 20 authentic WWII flying crafts from both the Allied and Axis powers that helped shape the history of the 20th Century. SWON also takes you to real sky

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and sea theaters of battle that were actually fought.

You really do get drawn into the well-crafted story of the campaign mode, too. As the newest recruit to the secret Allied squadron, you are joined by members of each of the Allied nation’s air forces in your battles: American, British, and Russian. SWON doesn’t resort to the old unrealistic “everybody

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speaks English” tactic that many World War II-based movies and games fall back on. Instead, when the Japanese pilots are talking in both the level introductory cut-scenes and the actual missions, you hear Japanese (with subtitles) and the same goes for the German pilots and your Russian allies also.

Each new mission is introduced first by an authentic-looking black and white movie peppered with both real and realistically-rendered photos. SWON brings the simulation of WWII fighter piloting to a high level of authenticity with the inclusion of all these presentation elements right from the pages of history books.

Adding to the believability and true simulation aspect of SWON is the large roster of WWII planes you’ll get to fly over the unfriendly skies of Europe and the Pacific. From your standard fare like the American P-51 Mustang, the British Spitfire, and the German Messerschmitt to the exotic experimental crafts such as the “Black Bullet” and “Ascender”, there are over 20 planes to be flown and fought in the 30 primary, secondary, and bonus missions of SWON.

With the great WWII planes you can fly, it’s disappointing that you can’t play SWON over Xbox Live, because as evidenced by another Xbox flying title, Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, there’s a lot of fun to be had battling through the online skyways. But there is downloadable content via Xbox Live in the form of new missions and planes, so LucasArts deserves some honorable mention for that online goodie incentive.

There are also other WWII vehicles and boats throughout SWON, including the infamously destructive Panzer tanks, aircraft carriers, destroyers, and basically any WWII craft that was used in the operations of the forces battling it out. (This being a LucasArts and Lawrence Holland game, you can even unlock an X-Wing and Tie-Fighter to use once you’ve completed the game.)

 

secret weapons over normandy          secret weapons over normandy


Weapons of WWII are also in plentiful supply in SWON, and you do need to take the type of mission you will be engaged in into consideration when selecting your weaponry. Rockets may be the best weapon to strap underneath your plane in some instances where torpedoes are more efficient against seagoing vessels. You can also earn upgrades for your plane-of-choice with a better engine, stronger armor, and of course, better weapon-holding capacity after successfully completing a mission.

Some crucial missions in SWON represent battles that shifted the war towards the Allies favor are for the most part long and action-packed, although there are some stretches in certain missions that require flying to a destination that will literally take close to five minutes to reach.

You can practically set your plane to autopilot, because in at least one instance in an early mission, you won’t even encounter enemies on your way to the required target, and I could literally take a quick bathroom break before getting to the target and the next wave of gameplay. But the huge variety of gameplay that you will undertake, including air-to-air, air-to-ground, air-to-sea, and the few ground-to-air missions that have you manning antiaircraft guns, keep SWON constantly fresh and challenging.

Impatient waiting to encounter enemies for more than desired timeframes does happen throughout the game, but once you actually get into the firestorm of enemy encounters, you’ll get overwhelmed in a good way by the amount of action packed into each mission.

Controlling your plane is one of SWON’s uneven offerings, as is sometimes easy to get disoriented as to where you are in direct comparison to the ground and other planes buzzing around you in battle. It’s not difficult to get thrown into a stall and start plummeting back towards terra firma. Just as easy is to lose track of enemy planes that annoyingly shred your plane with bullets unseen from multiple directions.

And accidental mid-air collisions on your part somehow don’t result in an immediate destruction of both you and the collided-with plane. But SWON does have an extremely helpful targeting system that lets you lock on to targets and the situational awareness map indicates if a plane is a friend or foe. Overall, controlling your plane does take some acclimation, but once the basics are learned, high-flying fighting is at your fingertips.

SWON looks very good too, with a strong attention-to-detail not only to the WWII planes and other vehicles that have been amazingly re-created, but also to the European and Pacific settings. As good as SWON looks, it sounds even better. Voice-acting, including the many different languages of the pilots, is stellar, and befitting a LucasArts game, the musical score is right out of the John Williams school, perfectly fitting and spectacularly climatic at just the right time.

LucasArts and Lawrence Holland have done it again with yet another good flight simulator that will appeal to gamers that prefer more simulation and less arcade-style action as is available in Crimson Skies. Unfortunately, there’s no online support, but SWON is packed with enough diverse gameplay with a heavy challenge level that you won’t lament the online absence too long.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(February 25, 2004)
 

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